rubber ball massage: an actual post

Hi everyone, I suck at grading and doing much of anything besides being blorp on the couch today so I thought I would write an actual post about something that has made my body feel a lot better this semester.

I get a lot of muscle tension in my neck and shoulders because I read and write so much for my life, so a few times this year I got a massage. These were nice but they were too expensive to do on a regular basis obviously. My massage person said that regular massaging would be the only way to really work out some of the problem spots on my back. So I looked into ways to do self-massage, and the best way that I have found was getting a small 2.5 inch pink rubber ball from the dollar store.

(cat not included)

There are tons of youtube videos about doing self-massage with tennis/rubber balls (search for tennis ball massage, trigger point massage, etc.). Most of them advocate lying on the floor and rolling around on sore spots. For me this is too much pressure because I am bigger than most of the yoga/massage people in these videos. However, I tried one where I rolled upright against the wall, the ball between me and the wall. Here’s a video of someone recommending this for the upper back

You can use a tennis ball too, but I really like the hard solid rubber ball because it has some give but is generally really stiff. I started out using those tension stress balls you get but they had too much give for me (though they might work better for someone who has very tense muscles).

Sometimes I run and I’ve used the ball for massaging my calves by sitting on the ground legs out, putting the ball under my calves, and rolling first back and forth and then side to side.  I also use it to massage my arms because I find the distributed but intense pressure better than pinching and rubbing my arm muscles.

I have been known to take the ball with me and roll around on walls all over campus. It’s really helpful after a long time reading or being otherwise hunched over. I have also used the ball for massaging other people, which has helped keep my hands and arms from being really sore while still putting a lot of distributed pressure on different points. I also bought a Backnobber this semester, but I have to say that I feel like the rubber ball method is much better. 

i wrote a really long facebook comment on trigger warnings and wanted to put it here

The questions you are asking are hard questions that need to be answered, especially who deserves to avoid their trigger and how can trigger warnings be used to cover over larger issues of mental health broadly. One question I have that purely comes from my exposure online and that may be totally wrong is something like, How do trigger warnings come from a particularly white, privileged online discourse? This is a real problem in disability activism in general—access to treatment and attempts to create accessibility are always always marked by privilege. But I don’t really see that kind of critique coming from many of the writers who are so strongly opposed to trigger warnings. Instead it seems to boil down to questions like “Should people with mental illness be in school?” or “How are triggered people behaving badly?” 

Who trigger warnings potentially mark in a classroom space is a practical problem, too. I think about that when trying to grapple with names and pronouns in classroom spaces. Even though I am trans and deeply value students’ self-identification, I don’t ask for preferred gender pronouns when we’re doing introductions because I feel like they mark and call attention to the individual trans people in my classes. I try to get at pronouns in different ways. But it’s still not a good thing to avoid it all together…long story short I think there are a lot of similarities.

I think part of the issue is that there is a difference between a writer marking his or her text and a reader marking another person’s text. In online spaces, writers mark their own texts with trigger warnings as a heads up to their long-term readers because they know that their audience has particular needs. Often writing marked with a trigger warning is accordingly revealing, graphic, and personal. I find they don’t cover over difficult discourse and instead offer people ways to engage with it on their own terms.

In the weirdly unspecific “college classroom” that has been posited in many of these articles online, trigger warnings couldn’t follow this pattern because the original writer is generally not present to mark their content for a particular audience (except in the writing classroom).

I prefer to think of trigger warnings as a “heads up” rather than a “you can avoid this reading/film.” I think a lot of teachers are already practicing a kind of “trigger warning” when they give their students notice that the book they are reading is about suicide or rape. Knowing about that going in, for me at least, is a big help. I also think they are not meant to keep you from teaching certain kinds of content—in fact they could function to help faciliate discussion around having more intense, emotionally challenging content in the classroom

Talking about it with others has really made me think about the role of reading in the classroom and how much control we have over students doing the reading, too…but I’m still wrapping my head around it.

To take a stab at it: part of the underlying issue links up with the classic divide between the role of writing and reading in the classroom. Students want to read in college classrooms in the way that they write online. Do we as English teachers want to approach that as a problem or do we want to work with it, understand it, and see where it goes?

Originally Posted By transartorialism

start-anywhere:

transartorialism:

“The worst, most detrimental thing a friend or family can do with a triggered person is to feed the runaway train, i.e., re-enforce the delusion that they are being violated when the triggeredness is by definition an over-reaction. The goal is for the triggered person to learn how to be aware of their own over-reaction. The goal is to learn how to say “I feel out of control” instead of acting out to destroy someone who doesn’t deserve to be treated that way.”

On Trigger Warnings, Part I: In the Creative Writing Classroom | ENTROPY

…what?

there is more to this, though.

the preceding:

I have an overt policy of no censorship of any kind in my writing classes. Students are free to write whatever they must, and others are free to respond however they need to. If a student wants to respond by walking out of the room, so be it. But I encourage everyone to listen, think and understand their own reactions so that they can express them articulately.

Being “triggered” means being reminded of a past violation or unresolved trauma in a way that provokes a reaction to the past, in the present. The responsibility of each person is to learn how to differentiate between the past and the present so that they are not blaming, scapegoating or attacking people today for pain that they have not caused but was inflicted by others long gone. The community around the reactive, triggered person must intervene, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them, to help them be aware.

many of us, students and teachers, want the classroom to be a safe space, and many of know that it is not. schulman (who i admire, but who also seems from some distance to be the harshest of persons) gives what seems to me a pretty good definition of being triggered, although “reminded” doesn’t seem like a strong enough word. and the delineation of the past from the present seems to clean and easy, because a trigger, i think, makes the differences dissolve. one relives. or replays. and responds to trauma in a context that is not the same as that trauma. and perhaps in just as well as out of the classroom, other people can get hurt (too) by someone who has been triggered.

there is a distributed view of responsibility articulated here. is a triggered reaction a healthy, safe reaction? is it self destructive? harmful or violent? is it stressful, corrosive to relationships, or does it undermine the triggered person’s physical or emotional health and resilience? i don’t know for sure, but my tentative answer is yes. by definition. using trigger warnings in the classroom may certainly be one way of reducing such harm. teachers, because of their institutional position of authority, should assume more responsibility rather than less in reducing such harm.

but it doesn’t seem to me that exposure to a trigger is the site of ultimate responsibility for how a triggered person feels. the trauma that left the trigger behind is that site. doesn’t healing have to involve both the decision to not expose oneself to triggers that trigger warnings aim to afford, and also the development, at one’s own speed, of resilience to continued or unexpected exposure?

I have been trying for a few days to figure out how to respond, s-a, so sorry for my delay. here’s a list, and it might not all make sense since my brain isn’t working very well right now.

  1. i really don’t buy schulman’s understanding of being triggered; i was struck by her description of a triggered person “blaming, scapegoating or attacking” people who trigger them. i feel like there is no single response to being triggered; for me the response has ranged from stunned silence, feeling set in jelly, uncontrollable crying for hours, depending on the context. but in classroom spaces triggering seems to almost always end with a student leaving a space either physically or mentally.
  2. i’m unhappy that this interview did not actually talk about the context of the classroom space very much (at least by the respondents who were anti-trigger warning) and instead made weak gestures to “community” and “poetics.”
  3. the whole of schulman’s initial response follows a prescriptive solution to trauma: defining being triggered, describing what a triggered person does, detailing how others should treat a triggered person, prescribing an action for those who are triggered in order to heal, and finally defining recovery goals for a triggered person. rhetorically, this is not an attempt at designing accessibility; it is an medical diagnosis.
  4. the turn towards medical rhetoric for talking about mental illness by people in queer studies is just flabbergasting to me. it feels like researchers in queer studies want to talk and think about trauma until someone experiences trauma in a way that is unruly, “reactive,” and out of their control; at that point the subject is mentally ill, detrimental to the “community” around them.
  5. there is no sense of recovering “at one’s own speed” in schulman’s answer. in her view, triggered people do not get to decide when and where they are exposed to triggers; instead, the “community” around them will inform them when they are Behaving Badly.
  6. it’s not a secret that we hurt each other with our mental illness. when perceiving the world through the lens of anxiety and paranoia (when at my worst) i hate that i hurt other people by hurting or by being unable to talk and think rationally or lose out on opportunities to connect with others. but in this model, the onus is put on the “triggered” person to change the way that they act for the sake of a “community” rather than truly distributing accountability for the real traumas in the world that exacerbate or create mental illness.

choose your own funding adventure


It’s the end of the spring semester, and you are trying to figure out all your funding options for the fall. There are lots of different ways to make ends meet, but you have to put the pieces together delicately! You’d really like the chance to get some more time to work on writing your dissertation/prelims stuff for next year, so you start by thinking about funding options that are not teaching-related. In your inbox are 5 postings for different assistant director positions from the writing programs. You also find a outside fellowship that sounds like it would be right up your alley. If you choose to apply for the fellowship, go to 1. If you choose to apply to an assistant director job, go to 2.


1. The fellowship will fund you for the whole academic year and even give you a little money for the summer. You gather all the materials and ask for recommendation letters well in advance. However, the fellowship has pretty stringent requirements, one of which is “You need to have on hand a Scattergories die on your person right now.” Roll the Scattergories die right now. If you get the letter M, go to 3. If you get any other letter or don’t have a die, go to 4 

2. Wow! A 50% appointment that will give you some writing administrative experience! That’s such a great opportunity. But everyone seems to know who is applying and who will get the position; after all our department is pretty small. Also the same ten people are applying for roughly the same 5 jorbs. You take your letter to the writing center only to realize the tutor is also applying. Awkward. For each position you get the other two writing program faculty who aren’t in charge of that position to recommend you. Cool. If you’re reasonably sure you’re going to get that job, go to 5. If you know it’s a shot in the dark, go to 4.

3. Awesome! You got a cool fellowship! Everyone kind of hates you so maybe don’t tell anyone. Only talk to your cat, parent, or spouse about it. Go to 12.

4. Dang, that didn’t work out. Time to apply to teach, you guess. You fill out your request to teach a class. If you’re still in your guarantee, go to 6. If you’re not still in your guarantee, go to 7.

5. Neato! You got a sweet job planning a lot of professional development and doing some cool classroom observations like a real adult. Avoid looking the other applicants in the eye for a few weeks and tuck in to your dissertation or prelims work. Go to 12.

6. You are still in your guarantee for funding, so you’re certain your going to get a position. Yay. Go to 9.

7. Getting a position out of guarantee is dicey. The longer you are out the less likely it is that you’ll get a position. This would be cool if, like, we had other ways of making money and having health insurance. Flip a coin. If you get heads, go to 8. If you get tails, go to 9.

8. Well, fuck. No position for you. Marry a Canadian and move to Canada, clean out a senior faculty member’s office, or take out some loans. Thanks, Obama. Go to 12.

9. You get a 33% appointment. That’s about enough to pay 33% of your bills. Whatcha gonna do? If you decide to work for the Writing Center, go to 10. If you decide to take out some student loans, go to 11.

10. The Writing Center is awesome. You love working there and talking to all sorts of awesome people about their writing. Maybe it will help you the next time you apply for an assistant director position, so next year you’ll be more certain that you’ll get it. Keep smiling under that pile of conference reports you need to fill out, bucko. Also kiss every Friday afternoon goodbye for the rest of your graduate school life. Go to 12.

11. Goddamn loans. You said you’d never do this again, and yet here you are, dancing this dance. Don’t beat yourself up. After all you’ll get an awesome job after getting your Ph.D., right??? Go to 12.

12. You cobbled together your funding for the year! You are awesome. Remember that being in grad school is like having a full time job while applying for other full time jobs to pay for you to have a full time job. SAWEET. Keep that Scattergories die handy—it’s useful for “grading.”

alternative grading method for writing

if you’re a writing instructor and you’re like me you probably hate giving students grades. i’m always struggling with the best way to make sense of unquantifiables like revision, obvious participation vs. not obvious participation, etc. i heard of a method from one of the professors in my department that i am adapting for my intermediate comp class this semester and i wanted to share it with you.

first, my absence policy is very flexible. i go with the standard “miss one week of class free” policy. if students miss more than three classes, their grades start to drop. however, i offer my students the chance to make up absences or to meet with me personally to accommodate absences over the limit on a case-by-case basis. usually this means i make a “contract” with the student about what they will do to get back on track.

second, i offer my students extensions for all assignments, no questions asked. they have to ask me before it is due and provide a new deadline. i do this in part because grading takes me a long time and i can read those essays later.

third, i am trying a new thing where i give my perception of if the paper is in the early, middle, or late stage of revision as a “grade” rather than A, B, C, etc. this way i can give a global evaluation that accommodates the student’s process more thoroughly, i hope. each student turns in a memo with their paper talking about their writing process, which i hope will help me make the decision about the stage of the draft. students have the chance to continue revising a paper after the first evaluation i give it.

with those three things in mind, here is my grade criteria.

For an A

  • Drafts of all 3 project papers in the late stage of revision, including the final web page paper
  • ≤3 absences
  • All drafts of all assignments turned in on time (including negotiated extensions)
  • Attendance at 2 or more one-on-one conferences with me, with a draft of a paper and questions ready for discussion
  • Evidence of having read all assigned readings for reading for 14/15 classes, as shown by your listserv post and participation in class discussion
  • Asking a question or making a comment at least three times across the class periods that your peers will be presenting their work
  • Giving an excellent presentation of your ethnography

 For a B

  • Drafts of 2 project papers in late stage of revision, with 1 paper in the middle stage of revision
  • Most drafts of assignments turned in on time, including negotiated extensions
  • Attendance at a one-on-one conference, with draft of your paper and questions ready for discussion
  • Evidence of having read all assigned readings for 10/15 classes, as shown by your listserv post and participation in class discussion
  • Asking a question or making a comment at least twice across the class periods that your peers will be presenting their work
  • Giving a good presentation of your ethnography

 For a C

  • Drafts of 1 project paper in late stage of revision, with 2 papers in the middle stage of revision
  • Several drafts of assignments not turned in on time, but all turned in.
  • Attendance at a one-on-one conference
  • Evidence of having read all assigned readings for 8/15 classes, as shown by your listserv post and participation in class discussion
  • Asking a question or making a comment at least twice across the class periods that your peers will be presenting their work
  • Giving an average presentation on your ethnography.

my hopes are that spelling out the expectations will help me make better sense of what an “A” looks like, what a “B” looks like, etc. and also that students will know what they need to do to get a certain grade in the course. i didn’t put in-class participation in grade criteria as a separate category because i want students to have the chance to participate either verbally or non-verbally. but i still feel uneasy about how to evaluate that.

i really hate grading but i hope this will help.

Originally Posted By rgr-pop

maybe tagging posts with TWs is morally superior because it’s the ethical thing to do

rgr-pop:

I didn’t want to reblog anything because whatever, and nemesissy has some very good posts going on about it that I don’t wanna interrupt, but seeing this:

I was grading student papers last night — grading one paper which mentioned the word “triggering” in relation to embodiment — and I posted on Facebook about whether it’s fair or sadistic to ask for a scholarly definition of “triggering”. This started a whole thread of people making sarcastic comments along the lines of “PTSD is the new ‘The dog ate my homework’”, which I found funny and kind of true.

I just think, okay, I want to engage in this interesting conversation about the meanings of words and the history of how we talk about bodies and memory! Except that the conversation is explicitly designed to exclude students with disabilities. Literally a professor comes out and says “myself, professor, professor at a public university which has a disability resource center, and my colleagues in academia, think that this disability which probably my students have documented here at my public university with a disability accommodation process, I think that this particular mental illness is fake, and a joke.” I really am trying to highlight how absurd it is for a professor to make this claim, not just because it’s a fucked up and pretty much nothing more than a flailing abuse of power and also a weak argument, but because, like, what is your job if you struggle to work with students like this, I dunno. And all the time I spend working with my public university’s ADA operations and accessibility resources, and all the literature about how important it is for professors to work with disability advocates and, most importantly, not express opinions about the validity of their students’ disabilities, and all the times specialists and professors have assured me that most professors don’t make judgments like this, yeah, yeah, okay.

I also wanna flag the “PTSD is a trend” nonsense, but also, hey, if you are uncomfortable with feeling like all of your students have PTSD, hey, I dunno, maybe don’t choose the career where you have to teach college women, or also, maybe especially, don’t teach at a school with something of a reputation for sexual violence issues, maybe. Or probably like, don’t teach.

I wonder what this kind of thing would look like to the disability resource center.

i can’t sleep and all i can’t think of w/r/t to incommensurati’s post is that it represents the casual dismissal of disability that happens SO OFTEN in queer/trans communities under the guise that the experience of disability is the same as the experience of being queer/trans in relation to trauma. it’s an attitude of bland acceptance of people with disabilities as long as their needs match yours because you ~*~get trauma~*~ until they ask for something that requires you to change your behavior or that gets in the way of what they want a space to look like. 

i have almost never seen trigger warnings/trigger language represented as a way to “shut down discussion” as stated here:

But “triggering” talk is sometimes used in interpersonal and community conversations to shut down discussion: “This is triggering!” can be used to trump another person’s feelings or ideas, because the most injured person wins the most moral superiority.

if we are going to talk about an economy of pain, the winner in the above scenario is the person who is the least injured, who can sit back and write a blog post about how PTSD is funny and a “trend.” the message seems to be that if you are a person with a disability and you are asking for someone to pay attention to how they talk so that you can participate in a space, for reasonable accomodation in a space of discourse, you are performing moral superiority. 

i don’t think that anyone who uses or requests trigger warnings thinks of their “psyche as always vulnerable to threat and thus needing to be preemptively “made safe” at all times, resulting in huge arguments about safe space.” to me it is more of a bookmark or a way to skip things i don’t have the energy to read until i have the energy to read them. it is a cataloging of content rather than a demand to not speak. generally people i see on the internet who use tw tags write triggering content themselves and tag it so that others can choose to participate in that conversation as they can.

last for this moment, but i really fucking hate professors who think their students are always trying to pull the wool over their eyes, especially when it comes to disability. i don’t understand why you would become a professor if you didn’t have some fucking trust in your students and enjoyment in their learning process. i don’t understand positioning your students as always taking advantage of you and trying to get away with not doing the work in your class. just get a copy of margaret price’s mad at school and actually read it.  

i have more to say about the rather aristotelian rhetorical situation that incommensurati’s post is positing (a polis where all citizens should be able to speak freely!! OR ELSE) but that probably won’t get written until i can stop crying on an hourly basis lol

tw: suicide

i am writing this 45 minutes before i have to tutor for three hours and then ride the bus for an hour to get home after attending class, preparing for a class, teaching a class, and then grading/working for several hours. tomorrow i have another class at nine and then a big block of time and then tutoring for three hours while missing a colloquium which ensures i won’t be in with the cool women’s and gender studies crowd (none of whom bothered to come to my panel last year anyway)

this morning as i pondered how to tell a student he was failing (how i had failed him?) i caught myself ideating, this time in a really specific way that i have noticed recently. why am i living if i can’t manage to understand the basic interactions between teacher and student like sending emails, if i died i could avoid the stress of failing this student, all the students who are doing well would be free of their crazy instructor’s inability to meet their needs, etc. i am not sure about the causality between “graduate school” and “suicidial ideation” but i hate how they intertwine. how the sort of “piggy bank” of reasons to live become concrete through my “productivity” of work—oh i’m a good tutor and i have an ongoing appointment on friday so i can’t miss, my students are learning how to talk about race and gender in ways that aren’t terrible yay, etc.

what sucks is this piggy bank is a) the basic requirements of my job that i am barely able to meet and b) i find little pleasure in the rest of my life and c) none of these productive things give me lasting energy. i guess i’m an extrovert so the tutoring is good for a quick recharge but then an hour later i want to go to sleep (forever) again. i love teaching and i hate teaching at the same time. i am tired of mundane suicidality though i guess that is part of my lower depressive swings so w/e.

but i don’t know if mundane suicidality is just kind of the basic state of graduate school either

also can people w/o mental health stuff quit saying the key to succeeding in grad school is “self-actualization,” “thinking positive,” etc. and also stop ostracizing people because they are “negative.” god i have no one to talk to in the department anymore except for other mental-health people and i have been phased out of a writing group because i’m not fun to talk to anymore

which haha one of the members of my old writing group who never responded to my email of “sorry i was sort of trying not to kill myself, that’s why i didn’t do the last round of edits” saw me at the conference, i went to say hi and he awkwardly introduced me as “oh, this is neil, we wrote two articles together and he’s a lot of fun to work with.”

also the ~*~*what if i’m not a trans guy*~*~ is rearing its head again, but lol that’s a tumblr post for another day

Yesterday at the state fair I was trying to buy a beer with a friend and her friend, bc it is the Wisconsin State Fair and there are 9000x beer stands. 

The vendor took my id, scrutinized it for 45 seconds, then asked me, “How old are you?”

I know this line of questioning bc I look young, so I answered, “25.”

Then she very loudly declared, “You don’t look like a Carolyn Elizabeth.”

I sighed, gave her the Oh God You Are Going To Make A Thing of this look, and then said, “I know, I am aware. I have a credit card with my name on it if you want to see that.”

"Hold on, I’m going to get my manager to look at it," she said.

"No, give it back to me," I said, because I was already humiliated and didn’t need another person gawking at my ID and wondering why it had the wrong name on it, but she refused to give it back to me.

Meanwhile she refused to serve my friend because she had the paper ID that Wisconsin gives you because of the REAL ID which requires them to mail you a new driver’s license when you renew.

Then the manager looked me over and looked at the ID and repeated the “You don’t look like a Carolyn” line and then finally I got my ID back and I walked away.

My friends caught up with me and the vendor had given my friend with the paper ID her beer for free because of “all the trouble she had gone through.”

transgender studies quarterly has a kickstarter so that they can start their journal

I really like the idea of TSQ, especially as a person who has thought about submitting there at some point. I have a lot of feelings about the Kickstarter campaign though, some of which aren’t really related to the intentions/consequences of the campaign itself.

  1. I really wish I knew more about how academic journals are founded, and what options exist for creating one that is naming a field. TSQ will be put out by Duke University Press, who also does GLQ. Do journals normally have to front something like $20,000 to the publisher to get started? Where does that money usually come from? Do academic departments sponsor that kind of cash? What does it mean for an academic journal to become profitable? Would trans* studies as a field have to become more “profitable” for the journal to remain viable?
  2. How much does it suck that trans* people always have to front money that is generally paid by institutions to do stuff that they need? (journals, health care, surgeries, legal changes, etc.)
  3. I’ve seen several critiques of TSQ not coming out as an online, open-source journal. I share that feeling, hesitantly. I get why having a print journal—hosted by Duke no less—is important for establishing a field, which is more of what this Kickstarter seems to be about than funding the journal. Does that mean I would be investing in a field I could potentially publish in? That feels good but also feels fucked. I also know that magazines like Original Plumbing (w/e) held similar fundraising campaigns but still produce print copies that are sold. I wonder about the assumption that all content hosted online should be free. I like the idea of TSQ being a book-length journal you can buy at a bookstore. I wish academic journals more broadly weren’t connected almost solely to institutional access. Ugh too many feelings.
  4. Asking for donations that would end up with the founders/editors coming for a campus visit is really smart and actually a huge effort on the part of the editors. I mean, Dean Spade came to UW and he’s everybody’s trans* studies darling and painted as a totally awesome person and I am 98% sure he charged more than $1500 for the visit. He does different things with that money (I think he gives it to SRLP) than some campus visit people. But campus visits are cheap and are sometimes how contingent faculty make ends meet (not that Paisley Currah or Susan Stryker are contingent faculty).

Ok back to grading everything ever.

steps to a conference panel

  • tell professor three things about current trans research:a) too much participant research that relies on hero/tragedy narratives (aka risk/resilience in health sciences, success/lack of success in rhetorical spaces in comp/rhet), b) too much discourse analysis that relies on trans autobiographies (99% suck?), and c) weird “thought experiments” about “transgender discourse” that are described as “pretending to write like the other gender” (I shit you not)
  • tell professor it might be cool to blend participant research (interviews) with participant-oriented discourse analysis (the interviewee picks the tumblr posts/youtube videos/etc that get analyzed and read all the conclusions the researcher does) to move away from these previously discussed methods
  • professor tells me to read as part of my research an autobiography written by a trans woman in comp/rhet who is a self-identified “Christian libertarian,” then mispronouns her 

WAT

when i visited my grandparents, my uncle had us go to church because he was leading singing. before the service my grandmother complained about the wednesday night ladies’ bible class because it was taking them months to get through their book and she wanted to join the older couples group with my grandfather.

we went to the wednesday ladies’ bible class (my grandmother, my mother, and me) which felt incredibly weird gender-wise obviously but also really familiar.  it was very odd to be in that space because if you are church of christ and quit going to church before you’re an adult, you never go to the adult classes.  the ladies’ classes are the only classes where a woman can lead prayer.  so you only get to see that happen if you are an adult woman or read as an adult woman.

as such, the praying was extra intimate; i don’t know if this is typical of ladies’ bible classes, but it turned into a lot of intimate description of what was going on with people’s bodies. different women knew people and family members who needed kidneys or had just gotten diagnosed with breast cancer or had incurable rashes or were having heart trouble. there were a few “pray for sandy because she’s having a hard time walking a righteous path” requests which made me think of when i was in high school and my mom would come home from wednesday night ladies’ bible class with a handwritten prayer list of names with mine at the bottom.

then the leader walked us through group close reading a chapter of exodus (the one where they get manna).  it did take forever.

Two weeks ago I wrote a bulleted list about people doing research and writing about Tumblr. A week later I had an intense conversation with my adviser (all of our conversations are intense) about doing post-internet research. I’m mulling all this over and thinking about what it means, and all I’ve landed on is lol no one should ever use someone else’s Tumblr for an academic purpose without their explicit consent.

That might seem like an easy conclusion, but I’ve seen it happen over and over—particularly in the past year, and particularly around specific Tumblr users’ blogging about trauma. What’s hard about this particular question of methods is that it’s unclear to me and to many other people whether or not a Tumblr is a human subject. I don’t mean that only in a OOO way—institutional review boards have a hard time coming down on this; they’re often unclear if things like Tumblr and Facebook are truly “public” and if you should get the consent of the user before using their Tumblr even if you plan on citing it.  No one can decide if Tumblrs are “just text” or extensions of the people who create them (though to me I feel like that’s pretty obvious).

Part of what is interesting about Tumblr is the inside-outsideness of how community building works here. So yeah there is this public page, but then there is a private web of connections on the back end, one that seems much more important to me; the only way that I interact with people on Tumblr is if they are tapped in as well, since I don’t do Disqus for blog commenting functions and I don’t keep track of stats externally. It makes me think about how when you go to an archive, there are often sealed boxes that can’t be accessed until 50 years after the death of the person; usually these boxes are full of letters and diaries and other life documentation. What if we treated Tumblrs like sealed archives? Ostensibly anyone can access a person’s Tumblr, but that doesn’t mean we have to treat them like they are public.

i love c/r as a field but i hate how everyone in it is so together.  i feel like i am constantly gulping down mental health issues because none of my grad student peers seem comfortable with hearing about them. i essentially came out to my class in a discussion question on monday night (thinking about mental health, this idea of “chemical imbalance,” the brain as a thing, and also psych drugs in relation to OOO) and i wonder if it will get subsumed by other discussions like all my other discussion questions about gender, race, bodies, transness, queer things, etc.  part of the problem with breadth of c/r and maybe part of the problem with OOO is how talking about so many things means we usually talk about the same TAB white middle-class male things.

maybe it’s just the current batch of people.  but even folks who i see with patterns of mental health stuff put their best face forward and plow through in a way i can never see myself doing.  maybe this is about grad school in general and not c/r.  though i wonder if disciplines with particularly gendered/service (course) based histories like c/r or library science require this weird “button yourself up and keep on trucking” mentality for the sake of the way we think of work in raced, gendered, and classed ways.

mad at school just won the cccc outstanding book award, which is awesome, i guess.  i’m going to read it for an assignment this semester. long story short everything sucks and i want to go back to bed forever.

thoughts on first-year composition:

  • should be primarily a space for experimentation—>why isn’t english 100 taught like a chemistry lab?*
  • should not be approached with the attitude that we are “teaching” writing—students already know how to write, they need practice with specific rhetorical forms more than anything else—>jesus christ, let go of the banking model of education
  • should prepare students for writing in their intended field—give them a chance to work out what writing in their field could be like
  • should also give them a sense of what prejudiced lit studies people will do when their papers get graded in a lit class
  • should be in touch with new media, a sense of place, the embodiment of writing, how writing is changing as the internet becomes a huge force in communication, etc.

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*yeah, i know chemistry labs aren’t actually about experimentation

crossing the river

i’m worried about what writing fixes in time, what it means to write about the unresolved past and future, what to do with the unsayable.

i saw eli clare this week, and in a group over lunch where i fear i took up a lot of discussion space, he talked about writing and its relationship to growing up in a rural town—how there’s no way to anonymize people or places, how your work will never even end up there.  writing after being rural relies on a lack of access to hide where you are now, relies on knowing that changing means above all else leaving people you love behind—as clare put it, seeing those you love spread out in a comet trail behind you.

i think about this tumblr a lot, how it opened up so many relationships for me, how i met many people in my life who i love hard through it.  certainly as many people as i love in madison.  but the opening up i do here about my family and my life is predicated on the idea that my family and their peers will never read it.

i am banking on a basic privilege here: internet access.  my parents have never had consistent, speedy internet services. broadband doesn’t cross the bridge that leads to our house.  satellite internet is spotty and too expensive.  i rely on that lack of access to interact with my networks on tumblr and elsewhere on the internet.  but i can’t help but know how fucked up that is.

when i was a first year in college, i changed my myspace page to say i was a lesbian in “dickhater, ga.”*  in november, my mom called me and confronted me about it.  a woman at our church whose daughter was also queer had been researching her friends on her new internet connection, because her daughter had forgotten to log out of myspace before she went back to college.  the fellow church member had saw that her daughter listed herself as a lesbian and that we were friends.

my mother, however, saw this reification of my lesbian identity as a rejection of my home rhetorical space that thrives on the open secret and a symptom of my newly constant internet access.  after all, she had cancelled our dialup after she initially learned i had a myspace account.  “i didn’t send you away to college so that you could become a lesbian,” she said coldly.  “you can’t put things like that up on the internet for everyone to see.”  there was a southern rural understanding of privacy incongruent with having a myspace page, much less one that says you’re lesbian.  i was angrily hunched outside of walters, kicking the thick magnolia leaves that crowded the pathway like they did my uncle’s driveway.  i don’t remember how i responded to my mother.  i wrote a blog post about it on my myspace but i deleted my myspace profile in 2008.

at lunch this wednesday, eli clare told us about how his mother, a community college composition teacher, begged to read his work (his senior thesis?  his mfa collection?  i’m not sure) over and over.  he told her she wouldn’t like it, that it was about his remembrance of their shared past.  she scolded him and asked to read it anyway, and he sent it to her.  she never responded to his work or asked to read anything else.

i feel like this is why i share so little with my parents but write so much and thus reveal so much about who i am and where i come from.  if i ever told my mother how i experienced growing up in our home, i imagine her response would be the same as eli’s mother’s—silence.  the few ventures i’ve made in that regard have ended that way already.  what would it mean to piece together what i remember of ex-gay therapy and confront her with that?  my father has such a revisionist history of who i am that i doubt my narrative would even remotely match his.  the one time he recalled a common memory we shared—me being pelted with insults in the car rider line my last day of my first year of high school as i kissed my girlfriend for what would be the last time before i clambered into the passenger seat of his pick up truck—he claimed that i was intentionally trying to shame our family and sully his parenting by daring to be queer in public.  he used this memory as evidence that my transness was about my incorrigible desire to challenge his parental authority.

i don’t know what ot do with this disconnect brought about by both material access and distorted memory.  i just don’t know. and i feel like writing about memories like the one i just did freeze them and my parents in time, present them to a simultaneously limited and infinite audience without the chance for them to respond.  something just feels fucked about that, even if their own memories and actions are equally fucked.

eli clare talked extensively about getting an mfa rather than a phd of some sort.  i wonder if the same reasons, the same circumstances, and many of the same questions and problems of access are why i did the opposite.  i wonder why i chose to go into a path where writing about queerness isn’t writing about my life experience as such—was it an unwillingness to open myself up to my own family, to hold them accountable and also have them hold me accountable for the choices we all made?  i wonder if i will ask myself these questions for the rest of my life.

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*oh, lord.

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